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Oregon Bill Requires Drivers License Applicants To Register For Draft

Catholic Sentinel | April 20 2005

The Oregon Catholic Conference and Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon have teamed up to oppose a bill that connects drivers’ licenses with a military draft.

House Bill 2575 would automatically register young men for Selective Service when they sign up for licenses or state identification cards.

“There is a significant difference in moral judgments that an individual makes between applying for issuance or renewal of a driver’s license, permit or an identification card on the one hand and registering with the Selective Service System on the other,” says a statement written by Oregon Catholic Conference executive director Bob Castagna and read to the House Transportation Committee March 30 by Philip Kennedy Wong of Ecumenical Ministries.

“To combine the two acts — one enabling participation in society and the other an act agreeing potentially to engage in warfare — raises issues of conscience and moral concern,” the church statement said. “To combine two very distinct public acts . . . is not good public policy because it erases the legitimate and quite profound distinction between two very different public activities.”

Signing up for a driver’s license does not involve moral questioning, the statement said, but registering for Selective Service “raises issues of the most critical judgments and moral decisions a person may be called to make in life: potentially placing oneself in the position of agreeing to engage in warfare, use all the weapons in our nation’s arsenal and take human lives.”

The statement recognized two traditions in Christian moral teaching on warfare — the just war tradition and the non-violent tradition.

Rep. Jeff Kropf, the Sublimity Republican who introduced House Bill 2575, calls the legislation a matter of fairness and a help to the 10 percent of Oregon men age 18 to 26 who fail to register.

Those who don’t sign up for selective service may miss out on college aid, federal jobs and even naturalization, Kropf told the Transportation Committee last month.

“Some young men simply don’t think they need to do it or they forget,” Kropf said. “This simply assures it’s going to get done. . . . It ultimately has a very negative consequence if you just forget.”

Kropf, whose father was a registered conscientious objector during the Korean war, said the government makes provisions for those opposed to fighting on religious or moral grounds, but that men must register to object legitimately.

“The notion that this can impinge on someone’s religious views is simply not accurate,” he said.

The American Civil Liberties Union opposes the bill, calling it unconstitutional. Andrea Meyer, legislative council for the ACLU, told lawmakers that the bill is an affront to religious freedom because it forces registration. Meyer argued that the proposed legislation treats men and women differently for reasons that have no connection to drivers’ licenses.

Gary Lockwood, Oregon’s director of Selective Service, told the House panel that he often gets calls from immigration lawyers and schools hoping to get federal benefits for men who missed signing up.

If the men are past 26, they are out of luck, Lockwood explained, advocating for the bill.

“What we’re trying to do is get compliance,” he said. “This is the fairest way to go about it.”